Members of the Dominican Republic's military hold a flag as they take part in an Independence Day parade in Santo Domingo, Feb. 27, 2007. Reuters

The Dominican Republic’s Independence Day is Saturday, and Dominicans across the country — as well as in major U.S. cities like New York — are celebrating. Festivities include elaborate parades and delicious Dominican food.

Before achieving independence in 1844, the Dominican Republic experienced a turbulent history of occupation by Spain, France and Haiti. Christopher Columbus arrived at the island in 1492 in his first trip to America, and the Dominican Republic’s capital — Santo Domingo — was Spain’s first settlement in the New World. Saturday marks the 172nd anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti, which was gained after nationalist Juan Pablo Duarte helped organize the war against the Haitian regime.

A Dominican Republic fan holds up a Dominican Republic flag as she celebrates their championship victory over Puerto Rico at the end of the World Baseball Classic in Santo Domingo, March 19, 2013. Reuters

In celebration, Dominican Republicans honor their founding fathers: Duarte, Ramon Matias Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sanchez. Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina also gives an annual speech on Dominican Independence Day to pay tribute. In the Dominican Republic, parades are scheduled for Sunday. Most towns typically send their representatives to La Vega to march in the independence day parade, dressed in a variety of costumes from around the country.

Of course, no celebration is complete without delicious food. Popular Dominican dishes include mangú, fried cheese, fried sausage, rice, bacalao — or flaked codfish — and shrimp asopao. Recipes for these dishes can be found here. Dominicans also enjoy the day by listening to music by famous local artists, including Wilfrido Radames Vargas Martinez, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Juan Luis Gerra.

New Yorkers celebrate Dominican heritage for the entire month of February, and a celebration commemorating independence day occurred Thursday in Brooklyn, including live music, refreshments and a tribute to Dominican art and cinema. Another party celebrating Dominicans occurred Friday in Queens, with traditional Dominican food and an art exhibition.